Yesterday, I couldn’t take social media anymore, so I took a break. Perhaps my poor state of physical health contributed, but I’d just had enough. I made my post here, and then turned off my computer and phone.
Why? Because what I was seeing was jokes at other people’s expense and terrible stories of the physical and emotional suffering that a lot of people in our world are experiencing on a daily basis. And people forgetting that there is another human being on the other end of that social media tool. Someone who feels pain just like me. Some people just attack others with no regard for another, and when I’ve seen too much of it, I know it’s time for a break. I refuse to become part of that world.
We’ve all seen the three monkeys (yes, I know these are chimps), and maybe seen the internet-tailored one with four monkeys. I wasn’t able to easily find a picture that I could legally use here, so you’ll have to settle for the words:
Monkeys SEE no evil
Monkeys HEAR no evil
Monkeys SPEAK no evil
Monkeys POST no evil
Wouldn’t it be great if social media were governed by such rules? Am I spoiling the fun? Maybe for some people, but for others we would be sparing the hurt.
Today, after my day off yesterday, I was greeted this morning with this, as the first post I read:
“We have lost over 40 kids to suicide since the beginning of this year!! When are we going to WAKE UP and do something about what we teach our children?? Why are we allowing violent and demeaning programming in our homes?? When are we going to get these kids some meaningful help??? MAKES ME SICK.”
That’s 40 teenagers lost to suicide, through apparent bullying, in 11 days. No doubt the number has climbed since then, and more sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends and classmates have been lost.
I don’t have the details, but what I had in front of me was enough to put me off my breakfast, and because I knew that some of the bullying that would have taken place would have been in the form of cyber-bullying, I was again put off social media. It was only a day ago that I wrote of social media being used to encourage teens to self harm ( see Like Bees To A Honey Pot). It seems that every day I become more aware of the harm that is being done, and I hate it.
To find out some more I went searching for blogs about this topic and found one that distressed me further. It was the list of ‘recent posts’ that got me. We all have one on our blog, but not quite like this. Each post listed was another teen known to the blogger who had committed suicide. This blog is dedicated to making a stand about teen suicide by remembering each lost teen. He says:
“Unless we really know the full impact, this crisis will continue to treated as a non-issue.”
This is about one part of the United States, but that made me think about how many more teen suicides there have been in the world in that 11 days. Much of the reporting of teen suicides is very restricted and so it’s difficult, if impossible, to know the full extent but the one thing I know is that there is a lot of people hurting out there.
This is my point. I know that there is a lot of good that comes from people working tirelessly, and usually unpaid, to support people through social media. I also know that a lot of people (both young and old) feel less isolated because of the connections that they have through social media. There is also a lot of good information sharing that goes on. All these things are great. But they get neutralized, in a way, by the harm that is generated through social media.
There has to be a better way than what we’re doing now. We can’t afford to be losing teens (and adults) at the rate we are. Maybe I’m being idealistic again, but society seems to have this idea that someone is free to say whatever they want on social media. To hell with the consequences. Society forgets that there are human beings, with real feelings, worries and insecurities on the other end of the computer screen.
My parents had that popular Christian saying of “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) as something that guided them in what they said and did. I know a lot of people still operate by that, and if that fits with your spiritual beliefs then that is great. It doesn’t work for me personally, but what does work for me is:
What If It Was Me?
What if it was me on the other end of what I am about to post? How would I feel to be on the receiving end of that? If we truly answered that question, wouldn’t it change how we post? I guess it is just another way of saying ‘treat others how you want to be treated yourself.’ It’s easy really.
You know I was really lucky. The circumstances of my high schooling were such that I could have been in for a really hard time with bullying, but it never happened. I was bullied briefly at primary school (because my Dad was the local preacher!) and I struggled with that for a while, but really I was lucky to get off lightly and to have the support around me when I needed it.
What I’m learning is that so many kids don’t have that support. So many kids don’t have the love and the belief in themselves to get through it. Social media is great in terms of the support so many groups and pages are giving, but I’m sure we can do better. The good stuff is unfortunately not the stuff that social media is known for. It’s the bad stuff that is what we hear about.
And don’t think this is just about teenagers. It’s not. Through social media a lot of adults get hurt too. It can be blatant bullying but it can be as simple as the joke you post. Maybe it’s funny to you, but what about for those whom it hurts? Is it really necessary to have your laugh at the expense of someone else? Again, what if it was you?
“Do you ever feel like breaking down?
Do you ever feel out of place?
Like somehow you just don’t belong
And no one understands you
Do you ever wanna run away?
Do you lock yourself in your room?
With the radio on turned up so loud
That no one hears you screaming
No you don’t know what it’s like
When nothing feels all right
You don’t know what it’s like
To be like me
To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one’s there to save you
No you don’t know what it’s like
Welcome to my life”
― Simple Plan
- Like Bees To A Honey Pot (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Intolerance (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- When Things Go Viral (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- My ‘Anti-Social Media’ Day (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Dillion Burns, 18, Death by Suicide (ronskemp.wordpress.com)
- Love is Louder Than Self-Harm: A 13-year-old’s Anti-Suicide Letter. (elephantjournal.com)